How do We Celebrate Grace?

Fr. Stanley threw out the following question to the congregation during his homily:

How do you celebrate grace? he asked. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, convocations, but how do we celebrate grace?

I set my bow in the clouds and it shall be a sign of the Covenant between me and the earth(Gen 9:13).

What is grace?

Thomas Merton, explains grace as beauty or radiance of a little child that attracts the response of her father and who in favour embraces her and gives her a candy. The beauty of a child is seen because there is life. You do not see grace in a corpse.

Similarly, he explains grace in the Catholic sense is supernatural life coming from God. It is the beauty that radiates from a loving relationship between the creator and the creature. The creator loves the creature and thus creates beauty in the eyes of the father. Our supernatural life comes from the Holy spirit and gives us life and radiance.  Grace is a supernatural gift of the holy spirit living in us praying in us and acting in us.

The Greek word for grace is ‘charis’ which is seen in charity, charism and eucharist- the ideas of love and thanksgiving .The Eucharist is a sacrament of love that radiates love and unites everyone.

In Hebrew, the word ‘charis’ is ‘hessed’ which means in favour, steadfast love, unfailing mercy which is faithful; faithful love even if the creatures sin.

What is a celebration?

We usually associate celebration with parties and merrymaking but the word “celebrate” in Hebrew is hagag, which means to prepare, keep, or observe a feast or festival.

So, how do we prepare ourselves for grace? How do we celebrate this grace- charis or hessed or steadfast, merciful and faithful love?

Grace is a union with God- gift of God and hence it is a preparation to rejoice in his love. If we can open our hearts to him and be humble to receive His mercy, abandoning what stains this union with Him, we can experience the goodness of God.
A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.’ Thomas Merton

The mark of genuine contrition is not a sense of guilt, but a sense of sorrow, of regret for having taken a wrong turn; just as the mark of living in grace is not a sense of our own worth but a sense of being accepted and loved despite our unworthiness. Ron Rolheiser

What is a celebration of grace?

It is to know and acknowledge that all that is good in our life is not deserved but received from a benevolent gracious God.  A deep awareness that we are loved by a merciful and faithful God despite our infidelity.

Celebration belongs to God’s Kingdom. God not only offers forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing, but wants to lift up these gifts as a source of joy for all who witness them. In all three of the parables(lost sheep, lost coin, prodigal son) which Jesus tells to explain why he eats with sinners, God rejoices and invites others to rejoice with him. “Rejoice with me,” “I have found my sheep that was lost.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming

How do we celebrate grace?

  1. Joyous grateful living- instead of complaining be grateful

Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice.

I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint.

I can choose to be grateful when I am criticized, even when my heart still responds in bitterness.

I can choose to speak about goodness and beauty, even when my inner eye still looks for someone to accuse or something to call ugly.
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming

2. Spreading this grace freely received to others- radiating the fruits of the spirit.

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” Gal 5:22-23

I can choose to listen to the voices that forgive and to look at the faces that smile, even while I still hear words of revenge and see grimaces of hatred.” Henri J.M. Nouwen

From the Eucharist comes strength to live the Christian life and zeal to share that life with others.”Pope John Paul II